Artwork by Garth Laidlaw

Episode 1: The End of an Era

The community of Haven exists in a world where climate change has severely affected the world's capacity to produce food, leading to skyrocketing food prices and widespread food insecurity. The citizens of Haven are part of a minority that enjoy plentiful food, partly thanks to the possibility of farming in the now-temperate north, and partly due to proprietary technological advancements that they keep under wraps. How did Haven come to exist, how long can they thrive in this bleak world, and how will they deal with the threat of Outsiders?

In the first episode of The Haven Project, we join the community as they commemorate the recent passing of one of their founders, Chef Jacob Ascott, and take a closer look at the tensions that surround the issue of securing a safe supply of food for their community.

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The fictional world in this podcast series is based on real trends from our own world. Climate change is shifting growing conditions for globally important crops away from traditional locations, into higher latitudes and altitudes. Developing new climate-driven agricultural land, however, could have serious environmental consequences, threatening biodiversity, water quality, and carbon storage.

Learn more:

Hannah, Lee, et al. "The environmental consequences of climate-driven agricultural frontiers." PLoS ONE, vol. 15 no. 2, 2020, art. no. e0228305.



SOUND: Mournful music, swelling before giving way to the sounds of birds chirping; of wind and waves.

ALLISON: Hello everyone. I’d like to take this time, on behalf of the Ascott family, to thank you all for coming out today. To see all your faces out there in the crowd, to know that you’re all here with him now, and to see the sun shining so brightly, it would’ve made our Chef smile from ear to ear.

Today, we are gathered to celebrate the life and commemorate the passing of Jacob Ascott. Many of you knew him as the Chef, others knew him as a mentor, and others knew him as an old trickster who was always willing to laugh at himself. Whether sitting on the Council, representing the Processors of Haven, or teaching us how to pickle, preserve and prepare the foods that keep our Project going, he always felt like a father figure. I can still remember the time I accidentally tossed away a loaf of stale sourdough. He retrieved it from the compost heap, pulled me aside, and made me apologize to the bread. He then proceeded to make it into the most delicious French toast I’ve ever tasted and told me, “I’ve never seen a Cinderella who doesn’t deserve to go to the ball.”

We could spend hours telling stories of his hijinks. He left some pretty big shoes to fill.

But for now his son would like to say a few words. Thomas?

THOMAS: Thank you Allison, and thank you everyone for coming out today. It’s going to be pretty hard to compete with French toast, and we all have a French toast story about Dad, but I’m going to try.

My dad loved food, but not how you might think. Of course he loved to eat it, but it was more that he loved to work with it. It was his best friend, and he was always thinking about it. He wanted everyone to be confident cooking, and to be able to eat well for many years to come. I spent many hours with him learning to cut onions, cure meats, pickle vegetables and make stock properly. Food was always how we were able to connect. He would say to me, usually after I tried to beat him in one of our cooking contests with something experimental that failed, “If you want to change something, to make it better, you first need to know how to make it perfect. How else will you know if there’s a flaw that needs to be fixed?”

To him, food wasn’t just sustenance. It’s the child of the relationship between the Earth and us, its stewards, and an art form with which we can express our memories and emotions through flavour. He believed nothing couldn’t be solved over dinner, and that hunger was the greatest tragedy and his self-proclaimed arch-nemesis. He always was a touch dramatic. 

Seems fitting that he should find himself in the Haven Project then, where we took a stand against famine and sought to start again in this new world. He was so proud to see all that we’ve accomplished, which he told me would not be possible without everyone’s dedication to the longevity of our community. My father was so overjoyed on the 50th anniversary of the Project’s inception. It was proof that he was winning his battle against hunger.

Even so, he knew all too well that there was life outside of Haven. As we flourished behind the Wall, the rest of the world decayed. It frustrated him that so many went to bed without dinner most days while we always knew we had another meal coming. Thanks to Dr. Hallen’s research, our production has never been higher at our vertical farms. My father saw our waste reach the lowest point it’s been in decades just before his passing.

My father always believed in sharing, and was never able to contain himself from teaching anyone who would listen.  I think we can take a page out of Jacob Ascott’s book, and help the Outsiders to flourish like we have. My father loved food, my father loved Haven, and he would want everyone to experience the feeling we have in the Haven Project. Thank you all, and may the sun rise ever on Haven.

SOUND: Applause.


SOUND: Faint din of conversation and polite party chatter, saying nothing in particular.

ALLISON: Come here you! You did great. Your father would be so proud.

THOMAS: Thanks Alli, that means a lot.

ALLISON: That was… quite the speech. Really rousing.

THOMAS: Really? I dunno. D’you think it resonated with the crowd?

ALLISON: I saw quite a few nodding heads. It was reaching them.

THOMAS: I was up all night writing it. Read it over so many times I think I’ve memorized it.

(Brief beat.)

THOMAS: I still can’t believe he’s gone.

ALLISON: It will mean things are going to change. We’ll need to find a replacement for him. The posting goes up at the end of the week.

THOMAS: Who do you think we’ll get? I thought you’d be perfect to—

ALLISON: I have too many projects on the go. A promotion would just be a target on my back, or a spotlight. And I don’t need either.

THOMAS: Please don’t tell me it’ll be Roger the Pickle.

ALLISON: What do you have against Roger?

THOMAS: He’s sweet and all, but the future of Haven is not pickles.

ALLISON: Your father loved pickles.

THOMAS: He also boiled pig’s heads to make headcheese.

ALLISON: Rest assured, it isn’t Roger. I hear they’re thinking of looking beyond the Wall.

(Slight beat.)

THOMAS: Are you kidding? That… that would be—

ALLISON: Groundbreaking? I know.

THOMAS: This is big. Really big.

ALLISON: It’s uncanny how appropriate your speech is. Maybe the Wall won’t be standing for much longer.

THOMAS: I can think of someone who might object to that suggestion.

ALLISON: Me too. So, we won’t go telling her then.

THOMAS: My lips are sealed if yours are.


(They laugh. Beat, then Allison clears her throat and lowers her voice a little.)

ALLISON: I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but are you serious about wanting to help Outsiders?

THOMAS: Absolutely. When I was a kid, I used to sneak beyond the Wall with my friends. We’d go out and explore what the Outside was like, and I was always struck with how… tired it all looked. Compared to Haven, where everything is new, the Outside was dull and dangerous. This one time, I saw this little girl and her mother barely a mile from our borders. I remember it so vividly. She was scraping out a can of beans. It was while her mother washed ratty clothes that were barely holding together and… my heart broke. I didn’t know there were people who lived so close, or that it was that bad out there. I was too scared to approach them, and they’d probably have shot me or something if I’d gone up to them, but I left some snacks nearby… I always wished there was a way I could do more.

ALLISON: (ruminating) There might be.


ALLISON: Nothing. I was just thinking about your father. You’re compassionate, just like he was.

THOMAS: You two were very close. Remember what he used to call you?

ALLISON: His Sous Chef.

THOMAS: Yeah! For the longest time, I thought your name was Sue because he’d always say he was meeting with his Sous. (They laugh. Beat.) I can only imagine what you’re going through.

ALLISON: It’s hard, but it's nothing compared to losing a father. I know what that emptiness feels like.

THOMAS: He’s in a better place, with Mom again.

MARLENE: Better than Haven?

(Thomas and Allison gasp, taken by surprise)

THOMAS: Oh Marlene, I didn’t see you there.

MARLENE: I was keeping my distance. I’m sorry to interrupt your conversation. I can come back later if it’s—

ALLISON: Not at all. I was just about to meet up with Lianne. Take care of yourself, Tom.

THOMAS: Same to you, Alli.

ALLISON: Good to see you, Marlene.

MARLENE: Likewise. (Beat.)

SOUND: Footsteps as Allison walks away

MARLENE: Was it Something I said?

(Thomas laughs)

MARLENE: Glad your old Aunt Marlene can still make you laugh. Why don’t you accompany me on a walk? I was sitting for too long during the service, lovely as it was, and I need a couple of strides to shake off the stiffness. Would you do that for your Auntie?

THOMAS: You know, I’d love to.

MARLENE: Then shall we? We’ll take your dad's favourite path, along the edge of the forest.

THOMAS: Lead the way.

SOUND: Music, building in tension from the mournful piece from the beginning.


MARLENE: It’s so peaceful right now. He would’ve been pleased.

THOMAS: It really is. (Beat.) Ah, Elli can join us, if you want. She doesn’t have to follow so far back.

MARLENE: She’s working, right where she needs to be.

THOMAS: Doing what?

MARLENE: When you’re the Councilor of Defense getting on in your years, you can afford to assign a guard to make sure you don’t have any accidents. Especially when that guard is your daughter who volunteered for the job.

THOMAS: I didn’t realize you were worried about—

MARLENE: I’m not. It’s insurance, something I’ve learned is important to have in place.

THOMAS: So it isn’t just paranoia?

MARLENE: Of course it is. Someone might try to steal my purse.

(They chuckle. Beat.)

THOMAS: Did you know Dad was sick?

MARLENE: No, and that’s how he liked it. If there’s one thing I knew about Jacob: he never let on how tired he was. A regular Energizer bunny.

THOMAS: I’m sorry, what?

MARLENE: (chuckling) Nothing. Just something from when I was a girl. Ancient history.


THOMAS: How did you two meet again?

MARLENE: Have I never told you?


MARLENE: Well, I was the one who recruited him for the Project, but it was a fluke more than anything. He was a rising culinary star in the big city, and I was a beat cop turned caravan escort. Only reason he saw me was probably because he had such a good heart.

THOMAS: He never really spoke about those years.

MARLENE: They were tough times. Too many mouths to feed, not enough to go around. That was at a time when people were hysterical about not getting enough food, so the hungry were getting aggressive and banding together in gangs. A lot of terrible things were done, but that’s—

THOMAS: Ancient history?

MARLENE: Precisely.

THOMAS: You always were more willing to talk about the past.

MARLENE: Your father wanted to prepare you for the way the world is, not how it was. I can’t fault him for that, but I believe the past has a lot to teach us. If we lose sight of where we're from, we repeat our mistakes.

THOMAS: You should write a book. You’re one of the last founders left.

MARLENE: Cameron Hallen and I are sort of competing to see who will be the last founder standing. That’s a contest I don’t plan on losing.

THOMAS: I don’t know, Marlene. Dr. Hallen could put her mind in a machine.

MARLENE: It would be in character. She’s always been glued to those audio logs. Her mind is already practically transcribed.

THOMAS: That book might be a good idea then.

MARLENE: Perhaps I will, when I retire.

THOMAS: And that will be…?

MARLENE: (chuckles) I’ve outlived a lot of friends and family. When you get to a certain age, funerals become increasingly common. It was nice to see your father get a proper send off though. Most of the Project came out.

That was quite a speech you gave. Very optimistic, which is appropriate when dealing with an ending. Perhaps a little too idealistic for my taste though.

THOMAS: (taken aback slightly) I… I said exactly what he taught me, that people can always be educated to do better. If given the chance, people will do good, lend a hand, and help those who can’t help themselves.

MARLENE: You sound like him.

THOMAS: Thank you.

MARLENE: While I have to agree that we have enjoyed a fair bit of prosperity over the years I would hardly call our modest society sustainable on a larger scale.

THOMAS: The Project is set up almost exactly as Outside government structures are. We aren’t doing anything that can’t be done beyond the Wall.

MARLENE: Except our people are different.

THOMAS: What does that matter? A regulation can be followed by anyone.

MARLENE: Only someone who has the desire to follow a rule will do so. Our people understood why these rules were put into place and acted in accordance with them because they saw the bigger picture. The stubborn ones who would rather have life easy will take one look at our rules and say, “why bother? What I'm doing doesn't change anything.”

THOMAS: If you extend the Wall to encompass the country, or the world, why wouldn’t it work?

MARLENE: If we act as a governing body in this regard, implementing our regulations beyond our borders , how do you propose to avoid collapsing like Rome? There’s no way we could be everywhere at once without becoming tyrannical overlords.

THOMAS: We’d educate people, show them how we have seen success in Haven and suggest how they can implement those principles back in their own region. We could open a school!

MARLENE: You assume that growing conditions will be the same. We have been able to prosper because climate change made the North more ideal for agriculture. In order for crops to be properly handled, harvested, stored and dispersed, they have to grow in the first place. Monoculture crops and excessive fertilizer use left much of the former “Green Belt” exhausted and ecosystems crippled. Plus the pollution! The South has been left dry, hot, and worthless for anything beyond certain pasture herds. Would you expect Haven to supply food for the region; the world? We can’t handle that volume.

THOMAS: Hasn’t Dr. Hallen made advances towards optimal yields in even the harshest of conditions? And the VAT system? That’s technology that could be used in the South and we’re withholding it.

MARLENE: So it can’t be exploited. If we swoop in with a miracle cure, the world can return to the way it was and we’ll stare down the barrel of another, perhaps even greater, catastrophe.

Dr. Hallen’s research has proven valuable, and one day these discoveries will be widespread...I would like to point out, years before the collapse, many of our principles were being used. Not widely, but they were being studied and solutions were in progress. But big agriculture found it much easier to make a profit selling monoculture, pesticides and cheap processed foods rather than creating a sustainable food system that empowers local producers.

THOMAS: You assume that decades of famine haven’t changed minds, and opened people up?

MARLENE: I assume nothing. I know what happens in the city. I know how big business refuses to die and continues to adapt. And I know that the last time the world had access to all the knowledge we had, it didn't use it.

THOMAS: So a few business tycoons trying to make a buck are going to make you think that no one deserves to be helped?

MARLENE: You do sound like your father.

THOMAS: I've seen what hunger does --

MARLENE: (interrupting) I’m aware. You snuck through my Wall in your youth through one of the holes that I’ve undoubtedly sealed by now and saw a desperate situation. You’ve seen one snapshot of the outside world, I've lived them.

THOMAS: At least I’m willing to stand up for something I believe in.

MARLENE: I did stand. When Haven was located further South, supplying food to the city dwellers who always asked for more without ever seeing how difficult it was to meet their demand. When gangs rode into our town and claimed our reserves for their own, I was the one who rallied our founders to action. I did what I could, and learned the bitter lesson that I couldn’t save everyone. I will not watch that happen again.

THOMAS: I think you have gotten paranoid Marlene.

MARLENE: Live through a war, then talk to me about paranoia.

THOMAS: The world is different now. Hiding behind the Wall as the Outside starves is not a solution, it’s prolonging the inevitable. One way or another, the Wall will fail. I’m sure you will defend it for years to come, but what happens when people begin leaving and sharing stories of Haven with their friends in the City? What happens when a group of activists demand outreach? Come on Marlene, you act as if the internet doesn't exist, and people aren’t talking across the wall. The world is going to come and I, for one, am not going to sit back and watch. I believe that people are good and willing to learn from what we have to offer.

MARLENE: I can see that you're upset by your father's passing, as we all are. (Beat) I am just amazed that you stood up in front of Haven and stated that we should open the gates. I think you’ll find most will disagree with your desire to reach out.

THOMAS: I know most agree. (Beat) But you’re right, Marlene. I am pretty upset and not just about my dad. I think I need some time to myself. Excuse me. 

MARLENE: I’m sure I’ll be seeing you again soon, Tom. 

(Beat. Marlene begins to cough.)

ELLI: Mom, are you alright?

MARLENE: (still wheezing slightly) I’m fine-- I'm fine , Elli. I just need to catch my breath.

ELLIE: I heard your argument get quite heated. You shouldn’t strain yourself so.

MARLENE: It was not a strain. I just got over-excited. Nothing to worry about.

ELLI: It’s my job to worry about you, Mom, and I’d like to keep worrying about you for a long time.

MARLENE: Nothing is going to happen to me, sweetie. Promise.

ELLI: I’ll hold you to that.

(Slight beat.)

MARLENE: I’m sorry you had to hear all of that.  

ELLI: I was just doing my job, Mom, but I was also… disturbed by Tom’s speech.

MARLENE: Shock value and exaggeration, my dear. I saw it when you two would play together as children, I see it now. He takes after his father, and he’s got the same stubborn determination to boot.

ELLI: Is he a threat?

MARLENE: No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think he might prove to be quite useful.

ELLI: Should I put him under surveillance?

MARLENE: Make a note of it, dear. Nothing obvious, but I want to know what he does next.

And check up on Cameron and make sure she’s alright.

ELLI: Dr. Hallen? Why?

MARLENE: She’s seemed distracted, and I couldn’t help but notice she left Jacob’s reception a little hurriedly after Thomas’ speech. Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe I am paranoid… Do it as a personal favour, but always remember your duty to Haven.

ELLI: I will, Mom.

SOUND: Music, signifying the end of the scene, increased tension from before.


SOUND: Knock on a door. Door opening with a creak.

ALLISON: Thomas?

SOUND: door closing

I wasn’t expecting you. Are you alright?

THOMAS: Just had a chat with the old battle axe.

ALLISON: Come inside. Was it bad?

THOMAS: She shut me down entirely, and I might’ve blown up a bit. You said there might be a way that I can help the Outsiders.

ALLISON: Thomas, I—

THOMAS: Alli, is there a way that I can help the Outsiders? I just can’t sit around and do nothing. Dad wouldn’t have wanted that. (Beat.) Please.


ALLISON: There is, but not now. You need to go home and sleep.


ALLISON: Go home and get some sleep. Nothing can be done today. Sleep the day off, wake up refreshed, and if you still feel this burning desire to help then come see me at midnight on Friday in vertical farm 65. C-wing.

THOMAS: What? Why?

ALLISON: I can’t explain now, just trust me.

THOMAS: Alright. 65 C-wing.

ALLISON: Make sure you’re not followed. You’ve made an enemy of Marlene Schultz today. She has eyes and ears everywhere, and you’ve just become a person of interest.

THOMAS: I’m not scared of her.

ALLISON: Maybe you should be.

SOUND: Music conclusion.